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August 2, 2004

Local mom faces jail time in smothering case

From: Indianapolis Star, IN - Aug 2, 2004

By Vic Ryckaert
August 2, 2004

A 12-year-old girl clutched a teddy bear in a Marion County courtroom and in a quiet voice explained how her learning-disabled brother used pillows to smother her baby sister.

"(The boy) put her in the crib, and he put pillows on her," she testified.

Prosecutors hope the testimony will persuade jurors to convict the girl's mother, Ruth Wicks, of neglect.

Wicks, 35, is accused of leaving the children alone in a Beech Grove motel for about 14 hours last Sept. 17. Police say she and her boyfriend, Randy Sparks, were cruising the Indianapolis area, trying to sell sex and buy crack cocaine.

Sparks, 42, pleaded guilty Wednesday to Class B felony neglect of a dependent; he faces sentencing Aug. 18. He faces six to 20 years in prison.

The boy used about five pillows, stacked them up and leaned into them with both hands, his sister testified Monday. Wicks and Sparks returned to find 4-month-old Ellen Wicks dead in her crib.

"Randy walked over to the crib and picked her up," the baby's sister, Kayla Wicks, said. "I saw her arms dangling down. I thought she was dead and started crying. Mom said she didn't want me falling apart on her."

Kayla testified that she had taught herself how to change Ellen's diaper and fix her a bottle. The girl said she and her brother had seen Sparks use a pillow to quiet the crying baby.

"Ellen Wicks is dead because she was left with two children who were taught a deadly method of silencing her cries," Deputy Prosecutor Kristina Korobov said. "He did exactly what he had seen Randy do."

But defense attorney Bryan Cook said Wicks believed her 14-year-old son was old enough and responsible enough to baby-sit despite his physical limitations and emotional problems. In February, the boy pleaded guilty to battery. He was sentenced to probation in April and ordered to stay at a residential treatment program.

The Star generally does not name youths tried in juvenile court.

Cook said the 120-pound boy flew into a rage, then later lied to police about his actions. Cook said the boy grabbed Ellen by the ankle and flung her onto her stomach, severely injuring the infant's spine.

Wicks' trial continues today. If convicted, she will face a sentence of six to 20 years in prison.

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